Las Vegas’ best new attractions

Story highlights

The Barrymore is the best place for an evening of modernized Rat Pack glamour

The Mob Museums opens Valentine's Day 2012 in a former courthouse where organized crime hearings were held

Starting next year, Wayne Newton will be opening the doors of his mansion to the public

Travel + Leisure  — 

What lies behind the walls of Wayne Newton’s Vegas estate? Penguins and Elvis memorabilia, as it turns out. And come next spring, when Newton’s Casa de Shenandoah opens as a museum, you’ll be able to see this collection for yourself.

This glimpse into the life of “Mr. Las Vegas” is just the beginning of what’s new in town. In fact, the city is having something of a renaissance, opening up new restaurants, clubs, and museums, returning Sin City to the ever-changing kaleidoscope it once was.

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Less than 10 years ago, Las Vegas was in the middle of a no-holds-barred building boom. But things happen, and Vegas seemed to be put on a giant “hold” for several years. The only major plan that was actually completed was the awe-inspiring CityCenter, which included the Mandarin Oriental and Aria hotels, as well as Crystals shopping center.

Now the excitement of CityCenter has spilled over into the entire city: new restaurants, museums, and clubs have either recently opened or are on target for 2012. So even if you visited Vegas recently, don’t assume it’s still the same. And don’t head to Sin City without checking out this list of the newest and best things to do.

The Barrymore

The Royal Resort’s hidden restaurant, The Barrymore, is the best place to ensconce yourself for an evening of modernized Rat Pack–inflected glamour in Las Vegas. The 1,400-square-foot space is pure, old-school cinematic Vegas, with handmade wallpaper, blue-tufted booths, and a ceiling lined with antique movie reels. You’ll also find funky Rorschach portraits of Vegas stars, and modern twists on Vegas classics like lobster eggs Benedict and octopus salad. Inside the Royal Resort; 99 Convention Center Dr.; (800) 634-6118.

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The Mob Museum

Opens Valentine’s Day, 2012. It’s the actual former federal courthouse where such landmark hearings as the 1950 Kefauver hearings on organized crime were held. Here, Las Vegas’s former “Happiest Mayor on Earth,” Oscar Goodman, defended real-life wiseguys like Anthony “The Ant” Spilotro (playing himself defending a facsimile of The Ant in the movie Casino). The long-awaited (a decade, to be exact) $42 million museum was created by the same team that designed the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. Among its showpieces: part of the bullet-ridden wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. 300 Stewart Ave.

35 Steaks + Martinis

You may think that the last thing Las Vegas needs is another steak house, but inhale one of the Tomahawk Steaks, a 35-day aged, 35-ounce prime steak of Flintstone’s proportions, and you’ll think otherwise. It’s a traditional steak house with a rock ‘n’ roll design: custom chrome-plated chandeliers in the main room, textured silver walls, and chocolate padded columns. Don’t miss the Applewood bacon creamed spinach or the 35 Gimlet (with cucumber essence and Hendrick’s gin). The wine list, appropriately, is stocked with “Wines that Rock,” including labels by Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. In the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino; 4455 Paradise Rd.; (702) 693-5585.

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Nevada State Museum

Reopens October 28, 2011. From a cramped and outdated building, the Nevada State Museum flings open the doors to its $50 million museum – and its showpiece, the 43-foot-long ichthyosaur – in the Springs Preserve. For those who know the massive preserve and its interactive “edutainment” format, think more of the same. For those who don’t, imagine a touch screen to tell the story of continental drift, a cave to explore, and a 3-D movie about the desert at night. Springs Preserve; 333 S. Valley View Blvd. at US 95; (702) 486-5205.

Wayne Newton’s Casa de Shenandoah

Opens Spring 2012. What lies behind the walls of Wayne Newton’s 42-acre property has long been a delicious mystery to Las Vegans. Starting next year, “Mr. Las Vegas” will be throwing open the doors to his mansion and grounds. Aside from the expected Arabians that gallop the property, you’ll find wallabies, penguins, and sloths. Also on offer: a new museum dedicated to memorabilia from his 50-plus years of entertaining, including Nat King Cole’s makeup case and the watch he was wearing when he died; Johnny Cash’s guitar memorabilia from Elvis Presley; and a microphone from Frank Sinatra. Corner of Sunset and Pecos.

The Smith Center for the Performing Arts

Opens 2012. While you’ve always been able to catch mind-blowing extravaganzas on the Strip, Las Vegans have had to travel for performances by the likes of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and The Cleveland Orchestra. Enter the most hotly anticipated cultural venue in recent Las Vegas history: a $450 million performing arts center designed by David M. Schwarz that (finally) puts Las Vegas on par with the world’s great stages. 361 Symphony Park Ave.; (702) 982-7805.

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